Khor Virap – Must-See. Khor Virap sits in the shadow of Mt. Ararat, the symbol of Armenia. The Turkish border is a scant five miles away. Khor Virap plays a central role in Armenia’s rich history. Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned in a pit for 14 years in the 3rd century. Eventually, he was released and he became King Tiridates III’s religious mentor. Under his tutelage, King Tiridates III converted to Christianity and the entire country followed suit and converted from paganism. Armenia became the first Christian nation in 301 AD. For you trivia buffs, two other early adopters in the 4th century of Christianity as an official state religion were Georgia and Ethiopia. Gregory became the patron saint and first official head of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
The first religious structure appeared in the 7th century in honor of Gregory the Illuminator. The present day structure dates to the 17th century.
Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, is only an hour’s drive from Khor Virap. After leaving the confines of trendy Yerevan, I traced the border of Turkey and arrived in Khor Virap as the sun began to set. Fields and empty land surround a hill, with the walled Khor Virap perched on top.
I have been to this holy site several times since my inaugural visit in 2003. And tonight I was back to capture the evening colors of sunset and dusk.
The air was cool and I positioned myself on another hill that overlooked the monastery. Khor Virap was nearly empty as the visitors exited as night fell. I stare at the two snow-peaked mountains of Ararat, known as Greater (nearly 17,000 feet) and Lesser (nearly 13,000 feet). Mt. Ararat is well known as the resting place of Noah’s Ark according to the Book of Genesis.
Khachatur Abovian, an Armenian, was part of the first team that summited Mt. Ararat in 1829. Abovian besides being a mountaineer was a considered the father of modern Armenian literature. He mysteriously disappeared in 1848.
I sat in solitude as the sun set, appreciating the majesty of Mt. Ararat and Khor Virap’s special role in history. Khor Virap – Must-See.